The one change parents can make to change kids’ smartphone habits

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Ever wonder why kids seem to always be glued to their cell phones? For the answer, look no further than the selfie stick.

Last night around 8pm I walked into the family room, with my phone in my hand, and noticed that 5 out of 6 of us were using some sort of device. The only person in our family who was device free happened to be asleep in her bed at the time. Now, we had spent the day with friends, running around outside, jumping rope, playing cornhole, and grilling burgers. Device time must be our way of settling down for the night. Regardless, if it seems like your kids are always on their mobile device, the reason could be that they are simply doing what they see you do.

Research from Common Sense Media found that 27% of parents feel addicted to their mobile devices, and 28% of teens feel that their parents are addicted to their mobile device. In other words, if this is true, the lives of more than a quarter of families are likely affected in some way because the parents are glued to their mobile device. And this doesn’t say anything about how many parents don’t realize that they actually might be addicted to their phone.

We spend so much time worrying about our children’s media use—and rightfully so. It’s been my experience, however, that things that I want to change about my kids’ behavior are often things that I need to change first with my own behavior. If I think my kids need to eat more vegetables, it’s painful, but that usually means that I need to start eating more vegetables. I hate vegetables. Simlarly, if I want to keep my kids from watching R-rated movies, then I need to avoid them. Kids learn from watching, and they watch nobody more than they watch parents.

I know, I know, this is probably adding to your parenting guilt. But that’s not my intent. I’m only suggesting that the way we try to get our kids off their phones should change. Instead of lecturing them, or grounding them, or taking away privileges because they use their phone too much, maybe we could start by changing our own media habits and see how that works first.

As Gandhi, with a slight tweak from me, purportedly said: You must be the change you wish to see in your children.

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